Associate Professor of English, University of Michigan-Flint. I research and teach rhetoric and writing.
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That Much-Despised Apple Ad Could Be More Disturbing Than It Looks

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Apple has apologized, but like writer Peter C. Baker, I’m not quite ready to let go of that really horrifying ad depicting a roomful of beautifully displayed musical instruments, sound gear, art supplies, and even toys being slowly squashed by a huge hydraulic press (ostensibly to highlight the creative potential of the latest iPad). Picture…

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betajames
9 days ago
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The CEO of Zoom wants AI clones in meetings

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A portrait of Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.
Photo illustration by The Verge / Photo: Zoom

Zoom founder Eric Yuan has big ambitions in enterprise software, including letting your AI-powered ‘digital twins’ attend meetings for you.

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acdha
12 days ago
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Imagine being a CEO, recognizing that your company’s meeting culture is dysfunctional, and thinking that it’s easier to invent AGI than trying to do anything to fix that culture.
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betajames
10 days ago
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Weekly Review

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President Joe Biden gainsaid the view of Israel’s war on Gaza, with its death toll of some 36,000 Palestinians, as genocidal: “We reject that,” he said.1 2 His statement followed a request, from the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his minister of defense, Yoav Gallant; the two men, along with three Hamas leaders, stand accused of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.3 The United Nations International Court of Justice ordered Israel to cease its military invasion of the Gazan city of Rafah, though the Israeli military ignored the court ruling, bombing Rafah in 60 aerial blitzes within the span of 48 hours.4 5 6 One air strike, which Israeli spokespersons have characterized as “precise,” killed 45 Palestinians sheltering in a tent camp for civilian refugees; the strike was intended to target two Hamas officials, and by that metric succeeded in its mission; Netanyahu described the ancillary loss of life, in which many refugees were burned alive, as a “mistake” and a consequence of “technical failure.”7 8 9 10 11 12 Representatives from Spain, Ireland, and Norway expressed their countries’ intent to recognize a Palestinian state, and the European Union considered whether to impose sanctions on Israel.13 14

Minnesotans gathered to mark the fourth anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer.15 “You started college just as George Floyd was murdered,” said Biden in his commencement address to the graduating class of Morehouse College, one of the country’s historically black colleges and universities; “it’s natural to wonder if democracy you hear about actually works for you,” he continued.16 The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was reintroduced to Congress after it had been ratified in the House of Representatives but was stymied in the Senate; the criminal-justice reform bill proposed to rein in police power nationwide.17 Michigan police swept the campus encampment for Palestine from the University of Michigan’s lawn, and the police crackdowns on pro-Palestine protests at campuses nationwide, which have involved firing tear gas and rubber bullets at students, were found to have flouted law enforcement protocol enacted in the wake of similarly violent repression of Black Lives Matter protests.18 19 “What do you think [Donald Trump] would have done on January 6 if black Americans had stormed the Capitol?” Biden asked 5,000 members of the NAACP’s Detroit chapter; in Detroit, the national People’s Conference for Palestine took place; for attempting “to prevent the genocidal maniac Netanyahu … from being held accountable for those crimes against humanity, you are an enabler, President Biden,” charged Representative Rashida Tlaib in an apostrophe to the commander in chief, who was not present for her remarks at the conference.20 21 22

Rudy Giuliani, the bankrupt onetime mayor of New York and erstwhile legal counsel to Trump, took to peddling coffee beans, at $29.99 for a two-pound bag, that he described as “chocolatey.”23 “I’ll explain it to you someday,” Trump said in response to the hypothetical question of how he puts his pants on; the comment came at an event in the Bronx, whose beaches join the rest of New York’s to make up what Mayor Eric Adams called “our French Riviera.”24 25 At a party for the 77th Cannes Film Festival, in France, the rapper Travis Scott engaged Cher’s boyfriend, a man four decades her junior, in a bout that was captured on film but that did not make the main slate of the festival’s offerings.26 In an interview, the actor Nathan Lane said that “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the song Elton John wrote for the animated movie Lion King, was originally meant to be sung entirely by the characters Timon and Pumbaa, respectively a meerkat and a warthog, but that John had objected; “I didn’t want it to be sung by the rat and the pig,” he confessed.27 In Spencer, Massachusetts, three little piggies attended a yoga class.28Lake Micah

The post Weekly Review appeared first on Harper's Magazine.

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betajames
17 days ago
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Care: The Highest Form of Capitalism

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Intro

In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—one that begat many a mommy thinkpiece, many a motherhood memoir, almost all of which decried and valorized the hard work of mothering—Premilla Nadasen’s latest book, which delves into the care economy of the US, could not have arrived sooner. Nadasen, a distinguished historian of labor and grassroots organizing, challenges readers to scrutinize the way contemporary care discourse centers white, middle-class families. Care: The Highest Form of Capitalism (Verso, 2023) reorients this discourse away from the white nuclear family towards those who simultaneously provide and are systemically denied the care that capitalism depends upon.

Where Nadasen shines is in her extensive research on: an expanding carceral wing of the state, an ever-dwindling pool of resources for the many, and the miserable condition of care as we know it. Her narratives center the people who organize through these harrowing predicaments, and these anecdotes are skillfully woven into what is ultimately an academic book. Through storytelling, Nadasen examines the way vague notions of care obscure the vastly different working conditions of paid and unpaid “carers.” Notably, she posits that, despite what some Marxist feminist scholars argue, the crisis of social reproduction is not contradictory to––but rather always has existed as a source of––profiteering. While the care economy provides relief, it also facilitates new modes of biopolitical management and violence.

Nadasen makes some important interventions, and even attempts to blur the false dichotomies of worker/surplus and employer/employee; but, stunningly, she neglects to make explicit just how much “care” is carceral. Despite brief mentions of guardianship, halfway homes, and the foster system’s separations of loved ones, she misses a vital opportunity to talk about the imbalances in the shreds of care so many of us desperately struggle to obtain. The carceral wing of the state has grown, as have attempts to crack down on resistance. Since major legislative changes like the overturning of Roe and the passing of Texas Senate Bill 8 have complicated the opaque and complex landscape of abortion access, more physicians and nurses in states with abortion bans face the choice of reporting their own patients to authorities or risking legal and professional consequences. Children are surveilled and die in the very schools the right attempts to defund. City governments and the non-profit sector propose housing “solutions” such as enclosed parking lots for tents, vehicles, or tiny homes, all while using the legal system and police forces to criminalize poverty. Shelters make criminals of their residents through enforcement of curfews, searching of personal belongings, the monitoring of movement; the prospect of stability is only given in exchange for compliance.The most accessible options for psychiatric and elder care in the United States are scams at best, and warehouses at worst, folding paternal and familial logics into worker incentivization. But these forms of “care” go largely uninterrogated. Here, “care” comes with a hefty price tag and emotional baggage, even if you had the privilege of choosing to receive it in the first place.

Still, Nadasen’s book is hopeful and smart. Its title, a not-so-subtle nod to Lenin, hopefully will attract a burgeoning leftist, a home health aide powering through pangs of exhaustion, or a young organizer; its accounts of worker-led movements and radical coalitions are a salve for sore bodies. Nadasen’s storytelling of fed-up domestic workers and organizers demanding better, her thoughtful discussion on the abolition of work, and her sincere engagement with the complex relationship many of us have with the state, certainly made me hopeful about the care that could be.

Excerpt

Domestic workers have always organized, whether through day- to-day resistance or mass mobilization. There are countless examples of individual actions, such as pan-toting, work slow-downs, and quitting, as well as collective struggles. As early as 1881, African American washerwomen in Atlanta formed an association called the Washing Society. They gained the support of nearly three thousand washerwomen, went on strike for higher pay rates, and nearly shut the city down, as Tera Hunter has written in her path-breaking book To Joy Our Freedom. After World War I, when African Americans migrated north, domestic workers, in a quasi-collective assertion of their labor power, refused live-in work so that they could come home to their families every night.
In the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, household workers across the country organized. In New York City, Dora Jones mobilized one thousand mostly Finnish and African American household workers—a group that became a local chapter of the Building Services Employees International Union. They established a hiring hall that offered employment services to its members and sought to replace informal arrangements with contractual relationships. Likewise, in the later postwar period, as sociologist Mary Romero has documented, Chicana workers in the Southwest shifted from full-time work with a single employer to the “business” model of cleaning for multiple families.

In 1971, African American women household workers established the first national movement of domestic workers. The Household Technicians of America (HTA), an organization with a membership of twenty-five thousand was dedicated to pay, professionalism, and respect. It included Dorothy Bolden, in Atlanta, discussed in chapter 1, who helped form the locally based National Domestic Workers Union of America; Mary McClendon, who took the lead in establishing the Household Workers Organization in Detroit in 1969; and Geraldine Miller, who was active in the National Organization for Women and founded the Household Technicians Union in the Bronx.

These workers challenged the servitude and low pay that characterized household labor and, in the process, pushed the boundaries of traditional labor organizing. The movement advocated for standardization of the occupation, employment contracts delineating rights and responsibilities, increased political power vis-à-vis employers, training and professionalization programs, and minimum wage coverage under state and federal laws. They dispelled the notion that they were “part of the family,” disputed that they did this work because they cared, and critiqued the emotional demands on them. They made claims to labor rights, political inclusion, and equal recognition for their labor.

They received minimal support from labor unions and turned instead to civil rights, Black power, and women’s organizations. They also developed their own strategies: Dorothy Bolden rode bus routes in Atlanta to recruit women into her organization. Geraldine Miller relied on the commuter train as a site of organizing. Carolyn Reed, also discussed in chapter 1, recruited domestic workers in laundry rooms in New York City. They organized women regardless of their immigrant status or their racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds.
One of their campaigns that best illustrates the goals of equality and recognition was for inclusion of domestic workers in the minimum wage provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Domestic and agricultural workers were excluded from New Deal labor protections, including minimum wage, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Over time, some states offered labor protections and, by 1950, because of lobbying by labor feminists, domestic workers received social security. But when the HTA emerged, they still did not have a federal minimum wage.

Household workers’ primary goal was to secure the same legal recognition and social standing for domestic work that was afforded to other forms of work. Edith Barksdale-Sloan, one of the early middle-class leaders of the movement, argued: “Pay must be increased to provide a livable wage. Second, workers must receive the so-called ‘fringe benefits,’ which long ago stopped being ‘fringes’ in every other major American industry.” They staked their claims both on the value of the work and on the rights of the worker. For them, domestic work was not distinct from other kinds of work—it was work, period, and deserved the same treatment. They did not call themselves caretakers, family members, maids, or domestics, and preferred to be known as household technicians. In this way, the domestic workers’ rights movement at its core was a labor struggle centered on a fight for expanded rights and protections. As organizer Carolyn Reed put it: “Household workers are the last frontier of labor organizing.”

Domestic workers lobbied on behalf of the proposed amendments to the FLSA, testified before Congress, and mobilized employers to support them. In 1974, with the passage of congressional amendments, they won inclusion in the FLSA, moving one step closer to full equality. In the wake of this victory, their press release stated:

Minimum wage coverage for household workers gives to these one and a half million employees a legal man- date, a recognition of the value of their services and basic equality with other workers.... For the domestic worker, whether she is Black, White, Red or Brown, or lives in the North, East, South or West, it means a new respect— for her service and her person—and the ability to support herself and family.

In a context of expanding state protections and the federal government’s presumed commitment to mitigate formal inequality, domestic worker activists made important strides toward winning a measure of recognition and legal protection and shedding the paternalism that underpinned their exploitation.
This was a significant historical moment. It was the final gesture of the New Deal welfare state before the shift to a ruthless neoliberal order, the last gasp of an economic program that was never designed to be inclusive and thus created momentum for a turn away from a safety net. But it also signified the historic outcomes made possible by an alliance among policymakers, middle-class allies, and grassroots activists when that comradery was built on the work and vision of the most marginalized.

The relationship that HTA developed with middle-class housewives in making claims for a federal minimum wage was particularly significant. It was a partnership premised on a common understanding that both paid and unpaid household workers were negatively impacted by the devaluation of domestic work. Josephine Hulett, field organizer for the HTA, explained in an interview: “After all, there’s a sense in which all women are household workers. And unless we stop being turned against each other, unless we organize together, we’re never going to make this country see household work for what it really is—human work, not just ‘woman’s work’: a job that deserves dignity, fair pay, and respect.” This campaign for rights was a far cry from demands to support workers on the basis that they care for middle-class people, which has marked the contemporary care discourse.

More recently, a new generation of domestic workers has organized. Beginning around 2000, dozens of groups, including DWU, took shape around the country. They addressed the on- going exploitation of household workers, egregious instances of abuse, and the practice of what they, like earlier organizers, called “modern-day slavery.”

In the summer of 1989, Christine Lewis came to New York City with her five-year-old daughter from Trinidad, where she had worked as an early childhood educator, and moved in with her older sister in the Bronx. Shortly after arriving, Christine went in search of work so she could pay rent, put food on the table, and buy clothes as the weather turned cold. She traversed the city, she explained, and “discovered Central Park, the ‘creme de la creme’ of all the parks I had seen. And women who looked like me— brown—pushing alabaster babies in stylish Maclaren [strollers].”

She became a nanny. It was gratifying work, but she found that, in addition to providing childcare, she was expected to run errands and clean the house: “Nanny work morphs into taking your shoes to the shoemaker, taking your coat to the dry cleaner, cooking food for the house.” Clear-eyed and confident, Christine never hesitated to assert her rights. She told her employer: “My focus is on your child...I will cook for the kid. I will do the kid’s laundry. I will help the kid with home lessons...I’m not doing anything extra that’s not centered around the child.”19 Still, she worked from 8:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night and was paid $350 a week with no overtime compensation, which translated to five dollars an hour. For Christine, the exploitative pay and unrealistic expectations stemmed from the fact that she was a woman of color engaged in women’s work: “It’s immigrant women of color who feel the brunt of this pain. A white girl will come to the job and get more money and less time because she’s white.”

Christine connected with other domestic workers in the park. “This park was truly the crossroad of the United Nations. There were women from Nepal, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Congo, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Bangladesh, England, Ireland, Russia, and Poland.” Through conversations with other domestic workers, Christine learned the value of organizing. As she explained, “New York was my new home, and it was at my new job, during these tattle-tales with the other babysitters that I realized we have to empower each other around what is acceptable and not acceptable in an industry that is rife with exploit[ation] and disrespect.” She was aware of the risks of speaking out. “Speaking truth to power could have gotten you fired,” she observed. But she had a fighting spirit and never let fear deter her.

Christine became one of the stalwart leaders of DWU. The organization provided support and offered legal advice to domes- tic workers. Their slogan, “Tell ’Dem Slavery Done,” spoke to the fact that, in Christine’s words, “We were working for poverty wages. We were working for long hours. Women were being talked down to. Women were treated like slaves.” She was a key organizer for the New York State Bill of Rights campaign in the early- to mid-2000s, which granted domestic workers the right to overtime pay, one day off every seven days, three days of paid vacation after a year of work for the same employer, and protection from racial and sexual harassment. It was an important victory but, according to Christine, fell short of what domestic workers needed in terms of pay guarantees, paid time off, health insurance, and social security.
On top of the lobbying and legal support, DWU also fostered a sense of community by practicing a kind of collective care in which people helped one another out. They offered food, child- care, housing, and stipends for people in economic need. “We have a community. We have what you call the village. Every- body looked out for everybody,” Christine explained. She also relied on “the village”—family and friends, especially her sister and nephew—to help care for her daughter when she worked fourteen-hour days at her first job. She was there during DWU’s early years and leads the organization today.

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betajames
19 days ago
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&udm=14

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“If you want to give people easy access to an AI-free Google search, send them to this page”: &udm=14. And here, from CNET, is a page of instructions for making an AI-free Google search a default in various browsers.

In Safari, it’s not possible to create a custom search. But it’s easy to do so with Alfred or Launch Bar. In Alfred (which is what I know), you can create a custom web search that looks like this:

https://www.google.com/search?q='{query}'&udm=14

I named mine goo.
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betajames
21 days ago
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Does One Line Fix Google?

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Earlier this week, Google announced some big changes to its search engine that are, in a word, infuriating.

Simply put, Google has started adding “AI overviews” to many of its search results, which essentially throw pre-processed answers that often do not match the original intent of the search. If you’re using Google to actually find websites rather than get answers, it $!@(&!@ sucks. Admittedly though, it’s not the first time Google has adulterated its results like a food manufacturer in the 19th century—knowledge panels have been around for years.

But in the midst of all this, Google quietly added something else to its results—a “Web” filter that presents what Google used to look like a decade ago, no extra junk. While Google made its AI-focused changes known on its biggest stage—during its Google I/O event—the Web filter was curiously announced on Twitter by Search Liaison Danny Sullivan.


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As Sullivan wrote:

We’ve added this after hearing from some that there are times when they’d prefer to just see links to web pages in their search results, such as if they’re looking for longer-form text documents, using a device with limited internet access, or those who just prefer text-based results shown separately from search features. If you’re in that group, enjoy!

The results are fascinating. It’s essentially Google, minus the crap. No parsing of the information in the results. No surfacing metadata like address or link info. No knowledge panels, but also, no ads. It looks like the Google we learned to love in the early 2000s, buried under the "More" menu like lots of other old things Google once did more to emphasize, like Google Books.

Oh, unadulterated Google, how I’ve missed you.

Ever use a de-Googled Android phone? Here’s a de-Googled Google, or as close to one as you’re going to get on the google.com domain.

It’s such a questionably fascinating idea to offer something like this, and for power searchers like myself, it’s likely going to be an amazing tool. But Google’s decision to bury it ensures that few people will use it. The company has essentially bet that you’ll be better off with a pre-parsed guess produced by its AI engine.

It’s worth understanding the tradeoffs, though. My headline aside, a simplified view does not replace the declining quality of Google’s results, largely caused by decades of SEO optimization by website creators. The same overly optimized results are going to be there, like it or not. It is not Google circa 2001—it is a Google-circa-2001 presentation of Google circa 2024, a very different site.

But if you understand the tradeoffs, it can be a great tool. Power users will find it especially helpful when doing deep dives into things. However, is there anything you can do to minimize the pain of having to click the “Web” option buried in a menu every single time?

The answer to that question is yes. Google does not make it easy, because its URLs seem extra-loaded with cruft these days, but by adding a URL parameter to your search—in this case, “udm=14”—you can get directly to the Web results in a search.

That sounds like extra work until you realize that many browsers allow you to add custom search engines by adding the %s entry as a stand-in for the search term you put in. I use it all the time to create shortcuts to site-specific searches I regularly use. And it works great in the case of Google.

Over-under on Google changing this? (Vivaldi screenshot)

In Vivaldi, my weapon of choice, I did this:

  • Go to Settings -> Search
  • Look at the list of search engines, and hit the plus button at the bottom left of the dialog box to add a new one
  • Name the new item “Google Web Only,” and give it the nickname of “gw”
  • Set the URL as https://www.google.com/search?q=%s&udm=14
  • Set it as your default search

Now, when you use the omnibar on your browser of choice, it will automatically push you to the Google Web Only search. If you want a more traditional search, add a “g” in front of the search in your omnibar, and it will give you the full-fat search, knowledge panels and all. Don’t want to make it your default? Don’t.

But when you want something more elemental, less adulterated, it’s there, no extra junk.

It’s depressing that it’s gotten to this, isn’t it?

 
 
Links You Can Actually Find

Our pal David Buck shares a great piece from The Hustle about how the Domino’s 30-minute delivery guarantee fell apart.

I envy anyone who is willing to go to the length of installing a PCIe card in a 25-year-old Power Mac G4 for science.

Cabel Sasser, whose company Panic was essential to my launching of ShortFormBlog back in the late 2000s, shares a wild tale of a forged Apple ID that he was able to assess was fake in part because of an Apple employee who has been on the payroll for 47 years.

--

Find this one an interesting read? Share it with a pal! I’ll be back with my standard weekend piece tomorrow. Cheers.

And if you’re looking for a tech-news roundup, TLDR is a great choice. Give ’em a look!



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betajames
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iridesce
27 days ago
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